on 5 September 2013
This is the most radically different edition of the Yearbook we've had in a decade, some of it good and some of it bad.
The Yearbook has been through a lot of changes in the last 15 years, few of them for the better:
- Team photos and crests are long gone.
- Non-league football below tier 7 disappeared with no explanation a couple of seasons ago.
- The old comprehensive Milestones "diary" section, the section I used to love poring over in every new edition in the 90s, changed about 10 years ago (after the original guy who used to write them passed away, I believe) into an almost-incomprehensible catalogue of incidents ("Drog volley at Leeds. Roo heroics. Now Eng must beat Moldova!") obviously typed up from someone's handwritten rough notes, most of which made no sense months later (never mind years) - this section was so awful that the publishers had to include a separate page actually listing milestones ("Cups, Ups & Downs") because the diary was indicipherable.
- Finally, some of the editorial pieces, which once let the Rothmans Yearbook legitimately claim to be the "Wisden of Football", degenerated into streams of tabloid slang and crushingly unfunny jokes (the low point came when discussing the 2010 World Cup: "Nigeria coach Lars Lagertop, sorry Lagerback!..." - hilarious, mate).
This year, things have changed. Jack and Glenda Rollin are no longer credited as editors - in fact, they don't seem to be involved at all - and the jokey attempts at dumbed-down banter seem to have gone with them. The entire tone of the book is more serious and restrained (a good thing in my eyes, as I doubt anyone buying this thousand-page brick of stats is looking for feeble light entertainment) and some good points are made in the editorial sections. Rare good ideas from the past decade - full coverage of the Champions League and Europa League, full coverage of the Conference, league standings in the International Directory - have been kept. The result is for the first time in years, this actually feels more like an old edition of the Rothmans Yearbook.
There are still improvements to be made; I understand space constraints and budget concerns make it unlikely the team photos will come back, but the Milestones diary is now gone altogether (I'd love the publishers to find some committed writer to cover the season properly in the style of 20th Century editions), and most of the lower leagues are still missing (the vast majority of non-league coverage is devoted to the FA Trophy and FA Vase, not league tables).
Still, this is overall an improved offering compared to previous seasons; I'm looking forward to seeing whether next year's edition can keep up the good work and get this back to its former glory.